From the Journals of Izmo Akeyan, Wind Lord, late of Tailimsia…
There’s nothing quite like a ride in the country, is there? It reminds me of lazing on the hay cart back at home, though of course at the end of the day it’s that blasted Olin cooking up what may either be jerk stew or boiled roof shingles – so there’s that.
Also, I can’t believe the things we’re up to on this heinous journey, I really can’t. To think I’m just a few weeks off from village and here I am, camped-out within sight of that demonstrative line of trees known as the Smallwood, battered as we are already by traveling and wet and…
But here I am, getting ahead of myself again.
My party awoke, as adventuring parties always do, with a smarting good headache and the morning-after sick of a rude night in town. There were the usual blokes: the inscrutable masked elf Askelor, our fearless leader (looking almost the worst for wear) Olin, and of course Valerius, that shining Paige Devout. Spiraling in and out of misery was the little dwarf Ingrid, and then in the corner a fellow slumped in a chair, looking very worn out indeed.
I can’t personally fathom what happened the night before during the Libernean festival. Supposedly it has something to do with the goddess Raya, and freedom, and purpose, and all that quivering nonsense that villagers say to have a good excuse to get completely tight and set some kindling on fire. Clearly, Raya is the goddess of drop-dead drunkenness, and ale and the thick syrupy wine and Gods know what else that flowed in sufficient quantities to have laid us all out. So there we woke, with Valerius, as if in a dream, standing fierce and armed and telling us he was leaving for good.
Such is the life of a paige devout, I suppose. I hadn’t known the steadfast warrior long, but he was a man of incredible courage, to be true. In the presence of Olin’s frivolity and moody charm, Valerius often seemed austere yet concerned, like a busy minded lad with a purpose. In battle, or the staging room, he seemed more a leader that olin himself, and that worried me some at first. Over time, however, I grew to see things as they were – that Olin was in fact less a leader than he was a binding; holding the group together as much like a family as it was a parcel of rangy seekers. Valerius, though, was a fine figure, to be counted on and trusted. Truth be told, I think I will miss him more, as time passes on.
And what an assault on the senses, that morning! The next surprise, in quick succession like a volley of arrows, was the strange newcomer. Olin was quick to prod him, and the strange fellow – Agoste is his name (I think) – revealed himself to be a queer sort of wizard with an even queerer chair. Queerer still (and this is the limit, I’d say) was his revelation that, in our stupor the night previous, we had hired him on!
One look at his flying chair spent my cockles rumbling, and I dare suspect that some strange, instinctual part of my heart remembered how sick that damnable throne made us all.
Better still, the look on Olin’s face! Priceless truly, I’d give my sword to see it again. Sadly, with Valerius gone and this newcomer clearly not a spy or dagger holder, Olin conceded to his joining us. So now we have another of the wizardly folk – just what I need. Haeron’s Hammer, the horror of it all.
And then, like out of the old folk’s tales, a third stone landed on our head! -The deceased member of Sword & Sorcery appeared in the door. A fetching elf lass, I’m afraid to report, with fierce eyes. Olin seemed very tense at her arrival, and there was some business about contracts and the means of her resurrection (of course they haven’t even had me sign a contract, yet. Then again, I’ve not been payed either…). Perhaps I was the only one who noticed, but Olin seemed downright… disappointed. Not necessarily at Leu – that is her name – having been resurrected, but at the method in which she was returned. Never the less, the moment passed, and we decided we should be on our way; off to Smallwood and certain danger.
This war has tossed the lot of us in very big things. I can’t be sure what troubles the members of Sword & Sorcery have gotten themselves into – and with a member of their party just now brought back from the edge of death, one can safely assume there’s at least been a lot of it. Never the less, I get the feeling that our foray into the world of mercenary work, albeit mercenaries of a very special sort, is their, and my, most deadly challenge yet. Huge forces that I simply can’t or won’t fathom are massed within easy travel of us. and in our own small way, we’re scratching at the very heart of our enemies plans and deeds. Sometimes it feels like climbing across the back of a vast ferocious beast, who’s very size gives it the plume and air of the earth beneath our feet. We are flees, chewing at a raw nerve…and the beast WILL notice us, sooner or later.
The lot of us packed to go, I kept weary distance between myself and the undead one, Leu. True, she looked as normal and any Elf- but my way is not that of hers, and a return from death is a curious – and terrible – thought. I’ve decided I’ll give her a wide birth from here out.
As for the wizard Agoste, he’s….well he’s quite bit of fun! I wonder what the city-folk thought of us bedraggled bruisers trundling down the path with a blasted chair strapped to the back! Either we’re warriors or we’re cabinet makers, I say. But the nervous little fellow is too much fun to pick on, I’m afraid. It’s possible I’ve even given him a bit too much of a hard time this morning. Well… better not let up now!
--- -- 0 -- ----
First shift on lookout, and what a bore.
After a long day and a bumpy ride, we finally took up camp in the shadowed eves just outside of Smallwood. The country air had done wonders for my headache, but the jostling cart made my spine feel a bit ill put together. I’d wager the only position that would be comfortable right now is somewhere between laying down – and just being poured into a warm bowl like a cup of creamed soup. Ah, well. Be damned my sour mood, because I fear I was even meaner to that new Wizard, Agoste. He seems a splendidly nice fellow, but too darn nervous and clever for his own good. If anything, then, I like him more. Leu has proved to be an interesting specimen, herself. Quick with her tongue isn’t even the half of it. We both gave the impish wizard a bit of a row, but I think we all knew it was just in good fun.
Which leads me to the plan, which I like, because it’s very straight forward. Leu and I, by way of volunteering (and being the ones best suited to the task, if I may be so bold) will scout the Smallwood tomorrow, and try to “see what we can”, as the toughs in uniform have been known to say. Evidently S&S has had a run-in with these very cretins, and it could be very dangerous indeed. Either way, my companion and I will have to be at our best, but I trust her and my elven eyes implicitly. If all goes well, we can formulate a strategy to decimate their hold on the area. It seems to me that it would be best to flush them out, divide the force, and take it that way. But then again, I know not their number, nor their ability, and their familiarity with the Smallwood thick will be quite an advantage.
But for whom?
Clever trickery is on my mind tonight, it’s true. How can a young elf from such humble beginnings not wonder about it all, staring out into this expansive night? I’ve never been one for guts and glory, so of course I think we should flush them like pheasant and tear holes in their ranks. Or is it cowardice? I’ve never liked facing a team of thugs- and that’s been the very definition of life since joining S&S: bits of sneaking and scrabbling, followed by long period of getting thumped rottenly.
Ah well. I shouldn’t be so bitter. They’ll pay me eventually. I hope.
--- -- 0 -- ----
Being the 6th Furrow…
Chaos. utter Chaos. Olin was on watch when it happened, I think. I awoke to the sounds of hard-shelled scrambling, and Olin on his feet like a paladin on watch. By the time I had any conception of the fight, I was up as well, bow drawn, facing the horrible monstrosities that were bearing down on us.
Beatles, star and stone, beatles! What loathsome things they are, vermin. And big. Very big indeed.
In the heat of it, I caught Agoste flying wildly off on his strange chair, I let loose a sling-shot that did nothing at all, and my bow-string has had it’s last fight. A great wave of fume and fire shot forth from one of the horrid beasts, and it was a scorching affront to our being. Even I was hurt by it, and I stood some 20 feet from the creature. Simply chaos…
I don’t know what to say. My party stands, or stoops, or sits, picking at their wounds, collecting their things, saying a prayer here, and laying on hands where it can do some good. And what a morning! What a way to watch the sun rise, to see the silhouettes of your friends and companions lurching back and forth, trying to regain their composure and will. Even Leu, our returned one, was nearly felled. For a moment in battle, I almost leaped to her protection, but…
Well there can be no buts about it, can there? Either call it duty or call it cowardice, I suppose. At any rate, we all live, and so I can’t exactly fault myself too much. The fates held me where I stood, and perhaps if I’d lost my composure in battle, I wouldn’t be putting ink to paper now…
..then again, we’ve all taken a savage beating. I can’t help but think I could have done better. And, inexperience notwithstanding, i suspect the rest of them feel something like that, too. If we can be so viciously lashed by a few dreadful bugs, what chance do we stand against a battle-weary and dug in force? Dash that: what chance do I have in the field with a useless bow and a scorched face?
I’d like to go on, but I simply can’t. Work needs to be done here, and there’s a slim chance that Anunë smiles on me today, and a replacement bow-string can be found. Whatever the case, we need more time and more thought if we’re going to do anything except die out here in the Smallwood…and I pray that all of us are up to the task.